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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Alison Nicholas has a problem with left-out Laura Davies

Bizarre decisions by US captain Beth

Daniels keep European hopes alive

By MARK REASON, Sugar Grove, Illinois
What do you do with a problem like Laura? It is difficult enough winning in America, something the European women have never managed in five previous attempts.
So Laura Davies was dropped by her captain, Alison Nicholas. Nicholas then had a problem with morale, as Davies moped about while Europe tried to hold off America having started the second day of the Solheim Cup trailing 4-3.
Davies has played in all five of those losses, and when she gets down a miasma of gloomy thoughts seems to seep out from under the visor.
Luckily for Nicholas, the Americans have been inventing their own problems. Some of Beth Daniel's pairings have been so bizarre that you almost wondered if she was trying to sabotage her own team. Not many people have given Europe a chance this week, but Daniel is one of them.
The crowd is always a huge factor in these matches and once the home team get some momentum the surge can become unstoppable. Christina Kim is louder than the wail of a passing freight train and a home crowd of over 20,000 jingoistic Americans is only marginally quieter.
Yet every time America threatened to get something going, Daniel benched one of her stars. It was bonkers, but Daniel had a theory and she was going to see it through no matter what.
Daniel left out Cristie Kerr on the first afternoon despite the fact that Kerr had been America's best player in the morning. It seemed as unthinkable as not playing Sergio Garcia after he had just taken out Tiger Woods.
Daniel said: "I didn't want to play Cristie five matches. I don't want to play anybody five matches. That's my goal. I'm trying to save their strength for Sunday. This is a very tough golf course to walk. There are a lot of big distances between greens and tees. I know Cristie played extremely well this morning, but she'll still have her golf game tomorrow."
This was nonsense. Momentum is everything in these matches. Kerr had a ton of momentum in the morning, but she was left to wander around. Daniel preferred to keep Angela Stanford in the Friday afternoon line-up, despite her awful form in the morning. Guess what, she lost again in the foursomes, and to some pretty dreadful golf from the Europeans. Momentum gone.
Daniel had decided beforehand that Kerr would sit out the first afternoon and that Stanford would play both matches. She did not alter her plan according to events and stands utterly condemned by her rigid thinking.
She also left out Michelle Wie on the first afternoon. So what did Daniel think of Wie's morning form. "Michelle played great. She hit so many good shots under pressure and really hung in there. I couldn't be more proud of what she did today." And now I'm going to drop her.
Wie did not sound happy about the tactic, but diplomatically said: "We all had an agreement that we were all trying not to play five matches."
Paula Creamer, the heartbeat of the team, told her captain: "I want to play five." Daniel dropped her from yesterday morning's foursomes.
Does Daniel not know that when Europe thrashed America in the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills, four of the victorious team played in all five sessions and won 16 points out of 20? They had some momentum going that week. Annika Sorenstam had a pretty good Solheim record and she frequently played in all five matches.
Daniel may get away with some crazy captaincy because she has much the better team. Nicholas does not have the strength in depth to pretend that she believes in some sort of crackpot egality. She needs to get as much out of her best players as possible, particularly with Davies in the doldrums.
Nicholas knows only too well that Europe have never won the Solheim Cup taking a lead into the final-day singles. There were times here when they looked to be playing for a draw, so slow was the pace of play.